The Red Knight by Miles Cameron
The Red Knight by Miles Cameron is the first part of the Traitor Son Cycle. The book features a realistic approach to knights and the warfare of medieval times. The author’s Medieval History Degree shows and you won’t see another fantasy book telling you so much about knights. Reading this book, you’ll feel like a knight trapped in heavy plate, your vision limited, foes pounding you from all sides. You’ll slip in mud, get splattered with blood and gore, and fight impossible odds. The Red Knight is military fantasy of the best kind.
The book tells the story of a small band of mercenaries that got hired to protect a cloister from the creatures of the Wild, an assortment of none-human and human creatures close to nature and at war with the civilized humanity. You get thrown into a realistic medieval world that’s rife with detail from the start, switching between PoV’s too fast to get a grip on all these people and non-people early on. It’s the books biggest weakness.
The first half of the book, you’re following the author’s will and watch fights all over the country, with a plethora of different PoV characters. Some of which go under that huge wave of characters to never resurface again. It’s a paperchase that makes it hard to bond with any of the characters. Even the protagonist seems cold and stands apart until the second half of the book. I’ve heard from many that had similar problems with the multitude of PoV switches and having finished not only the first, but the second book of the series, I can only tell you to hold on. Please.
If you do, you’ll find an incredible book, an (so far) incredible series that portrays knights and medieval warfare more realistic than any other series I’ve encountered in the fantasy genre.
As soon as you’ve overcome this first half, the constant changes in PoV characters become less frequent and you start to build a genuine relationship with the brash captain and his not-so-noble band of mercenaries. Their forlorn fight has you gripping the book harder. As if the enemy’s superior numbers weren’t enough, they have a powerful sorcerer as their commander and the protections of the cloister won’t hold him off forever.
But the book isn’t only this single battle. The whole country is in turmoil, being besieged by the creatures of the wild, their forces in an uphill battle against the fear these creatures emanate. This spreading out o the conflict enable us to see more than just this small battlefield, but a whole country modeled after medieval times and even gives us a glimpse of the world beyond this small conflict. It promises a lot and I can already tell you that the second book delivers.
“Men do not look on horror and forget it. They merely put it away.”
While I can recommend this book, there were some things I found working less well. One was the commander of the wild, who, despite being incredible intelligent, seems to fall for everything the captain of our mercenary band throws at him. He seems an incompetent commander and thus the strategic and tactical dance these two enemies conduct seemed skewed in the favor of our hero. Granted, he’s in a pretty bad position, but I find it irritating that his successes can be retraced to his enemy’s failures, not entirely to his own ingenuity.
That’s actually a problem you can find in many SFF books that deal with large battles/wars. To show the protagonists prowess and intelligence, you’ll see him winning against incredible odds mostly through his enemy’s failures or arrogance, not through some real outmaneuvering or elaborate setups. Still, it left a sour aftertaste for me.
Another weakness was the love story, which seemed fast. Too fast for my tastes. I’m not a believer in love at first sight, so maybe it’s my own failing to not enjoy this sort of liaison. It gets better with time, as much in this book does, but I still find it somewhat unrealistic. That’s glaring in such a realistic world.
As the last I wanted to mention something that annoyed me to no end. The kindle version of the book is rather full of errors of every kind and they become annoying with time. Another proofread would not have been amiss. Nothing that destroyed my enjoyment, but something that shouldn’t have been in this book.
Concluding: The Red Knight isn’t an easy to book to get into. It takes time and patience. Sticking with it is well worth and you get drawn into a realistic medieval world build by an expert. It’s rich in detail, military fantasy for gourmets with an engaging cast of characters and an interesting magic system. As the opening to a long series, it does its job to introduce the reader into this detailed world and the promise the author makes with this book are taken up in the next. It’s a book you should take up if medieval realism or military stories in a fantasy setting appeal to you.